Military Academies Among Top Schools

While frequently criticized for developing “whole” officers (including spiritual and moral aspects, as well as leadership and academic), the military academies have consistently demonstrated strength as educational institutions.  US News and World Report recently published their Best Colleges 2009.  The Air Force Academy was ranked #2 in the nation for aero/astronautical engineering, and was the #1 school in the western region, as also noted at  All three military academies (Military, Naval, and Air Force) were in the top 10 nationally for engineering programs.

“Under Orders” Under Fire

Chaplain Bill McCoy, author of Under Orders, now finds himself backtracking from the publication of an endorsement by General Petraeus on the cover of his book.  According to various press reports, he now says the endorsement, as well as that of another General,

were intended for me personally rather than for the general public

Under Orders was reviewed here six months ago, and the Chaplain even responded to defend his book at the time.

In typical fashion, Michael Weinstein has said Read more

Jewish Chaplain Provides Spiritual Support in Iraq

A local Philadelphia newspaper covers the story of Rabbi Jon Cutler, a Jewish Navy Reserve Chaplain serving a 13-month tour in Iraq.  Cutler is the head Chaplain for 23 others.

Like many Chaplains, Cutler has the benefit of civilian religious counterparts to help fulfill troops’ spiritual needs:

When Cutler came to Iraq this winter, [he] set about creating a synagogue in the base’s chapel complex. Today, that synagogue — supplied with a Torah scroll brought over from the U.S. and the ark that holds it constructed by civilian contractors — has between 10 and 15 military personnel attending Friday night services. There is a steady crowd at Saturday Torah studies and weekly Jewish movie nights. Read more

Army Soldier Attempts IG Complaint

According to a Kansas paper, Army Specialist Jeremy Hall (who is currently suing the Defense Department for “religious proselytizing”), was rebuffed in a visit to the IG to complain about “violations of his religious freedoms.”  Weinstein said this “undermines” the DoJ’s move to dismiss, which cited Hall’s failure to use the in-place grievance systems.

According to the article, the visit occurred “earlier this month.”  That would make it appear to be a response to the DoJ motion, which was filed last month, and possibly an attempt to generate content for Hall’s response to the motion, which is due next month.  In addition, Weinstein (a former JAG) appears not to see a conflict of interest with the Army conducting an internal investigation about charges which are currently involved in, or related to, an ongoing federal lawsuit in which it is essentially a defendant.

According to the article, Weinstein also plans to bring up the fact that someone posted a mock Soldier’s creed (that ridiculed soldiers with medical duty waivers) in Hall’s platoon area.  The article lists a previously unknown medical restriction for Hall.  How Weinstein plans to integrate the faux creed about physical fitness into a lawsuit about religion is unclear. The sarcastic modification of military mantras is a fairly common brand of critical cynicism in the military, and is limited neither to the Army’s creed nor physical conditions.

Chief Chaplain on Religion in the AF

Maj Gen Cecil Richardson, Air Force Chief of Chaplains (previously noted here), was interviewed by the Air Force Times.  Notable quotes on religion in the Air Force:

[I]f you’re just introducing yourself to someone and you say I’m married, I have three kids, I’m from Ohio, I’m a Roman Catholic and my faith is an important part of my life, no problem…If you…say, “If you want to be a good airman, a good officer and a good student … you have to be Roman Catholic or Baptist,” then you’ve gone over the line.

It’s true the other way around. I’ve met guys who say, “I’ve got a commander who’s very anti-religious. Read more

Support for “Free Day Away” Approved by IG

In an interesting turn of events, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) undermined Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) in its recent effort to complain about Fort Leonard Wood’s “Free Day Away” (discussed here).

In July, the AU requested an IG investigation…something the MAAF did two years ago.  The MAAF also complained again last January, and received a reply (which noted that the IG had already investigated their complaint) at nearly the same time the AU made their IG request.  From the DOD reply:

The [IG] found that the program does not violate Army policy in that participation is voluntary…The IG determined that…soldiers have opportunities to participate in non-religious morale, welfare, and recreation programs.  More specifically, during the Free Day Away program,…soldiers can remain in the barracks or go to an on-post facility, such as a Post Exchange Annex.

The Free Day Away event has also featured prominently in the MRFF lawsuit against the Department of Defense.

Challenge to VA Chaplains’ “Pastoral Care”

As noted here, the 7th Circuit ruled against the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which had challenged the “pastoral care” role of the VA Chaplaincy on Constitutional grounds (filed in 2006).  While the lower court ruled on the merits of the case (in favor of the VA), the circuit court vacated that decision and found that the FFRF did not have standing to sue.

In its ruling, the court also included a fairly detailed history of the military Chaplaincy.  Even the FRFF legally conceded that chaplains

obviously perform religious activities, which they can do to a limited extent to accommodate the constitutional Free Exercise rights of hospitalized patients.

The judges also noted Read more

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